a blog by an autistic adult

Category: Discrimination

“There is no disability in life except a bad attitude.” Really??

dear non-disabled people

Dear non-disabled people:

Telling disabled people that “there is no disability in life except for a bad attitude” is not helpful or inspirational. It’s insulting and harmful. Stop that nonsense. It’s like lecturing to a drowning person about how if they only loved the water, you wouldn’t have pushed them into it.

When you say you appreciate my positive attitude…

Image is a photograph of tiny purple flowers growing through cracked blacktop with the words "I'm not trying to inspire you. I'm just trying to survive."

Image is a photograph of tiny purple flowers growing through cracked blacktop with the words “I’m not trying to inspire you. I’m just trying to survive.”

You might have noticed that I haven’t blogged for a while, and that I haven’t been updating the Aspified facebook page as often as I used to. I’ve been going through another burnout as a result of extreme stress and having to spend so much time blending in and passing. In addition to other stressful life events, I have been trying to complete my last semester of college.

The more burned out I’ve become, the less tolerance I have had for people’s attitudes. Specifically, I am struggling with people who say things like “You’re such an inspiration” or “I appreciate your positive attitude.”

If you’re looking at the situation from the outside in, you might think these phrases are compliments. Sometimes they are.  But within the context I am hearing them, there is a more accurate translation.

What these people are really saying to me is “Rather than listen to the struggles you have told me you are having in this class and finding some way to follow the law and accommodate you, or even acknowledge your documented disabilities, I will instead focus on how awesome you are handling the fact that we are discriminating against you and causing you undue stress.”

I try to have a positive attitude about most things, because I don’t like feeling negatively. I don’t like to wallow in my troubles, because it makes me feel worse. That is my personal choice, and it is a choice I make for myself. Not for you.

When you tell me you appreciate my positive attitude, the message I receive is that I owe you something. Your actions after speaking these words to me, or rather your inaction to do anything to actually solve the problem, demonstrate to me that you do not care that I am struggling. I’m sure it’s much easier to say how inspiring I am for overcoming my “challenges” (as you call them), but here’s the thing.

I do not owe you a positive attitude.

I am not here to inspire you.

I am just trying to survive in a world that is set up to exclude me.

I do not need your false-praise or even your genuine compliment.

What I need is for you to do your job, comply with the law, and get me closed captions or a transcript for this project. What I need is to not be told “I know you have trouble hearing, but I would really like to discuss this over the phone,” when I have told you five times that I can’t do that. If I could hear well enough to discuss this over the phone, we would not be having this conversation.

What I need is for you to answer my question, in writing.

What I need is for you to explain the instructions in a way I can understand them.

What I need is to stop having to accommodate the needs of the people who are required by law to accommodate mine. Otherwise, the “inspiring” student with “such a positive attitude” will be filing a lawsuit.

Edit to add: For non-disabled people who feel the need to comment here about how easy it would be for me to find an advocate to fight this on my behalf, or how easily you would solve this problem if you were me, please do me a favor and shut up. If those are your thoughts, then you have no idea what the real world is like for disabled people, and your attitude is part of the problem.


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